Babies find noise soothing, but providing the constant sound they desire can seem like an impossible task.
Enter the sound machine. Here are the details on why these units can work so well and reviews of specific models to help you find the best baby sound machine for your family.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
Benefits of a Sound Machine
A sound machine may be a lifesaver if you spend your nights humming, singing and gently shushing your baby in an attempt to coax them to sleep. Using a machine can help ease that load and give you a chance to get your own much-needed rest.
The extra noise may be especially comforting to newborns who are accustomed to hearing up to 90 decibels of sound in the womb. The sounds of their mother’s heart beating and the whoosh of blood rushing through her vessels are constant in utero, and a new baby may find the quiet of the outside world to be a stark and jarring contrast.
Particularly if you have older children or noisy pets, a sound machine can also be a great help in masking other household noises. Having some background noise playing in your baby’s room can help ease that feeling of having to walk on eggshells during nap time.
What Kinds of Sounds do Babies Prefer?
Most of the choices a sound machine offers are relaxing for babies and adults alike.
Nature Sounds – Soft rainfall, a babbling brook or waves hitting the shore are commonly offered on most sound machines. Hushed tones of bird or insect noises can be other nature sounds.
Gentle rhythmic tones – Very young babies may also enjoy this noise that mimics the sound of their mother’s heartbeat.
Soft instrumental music – Babies may find songs with vocals too stimulating to be conducive to sleep. Classical pieces or lullabies are typically favorites.
White Noise – White noise refers to sounds that consist of just one frequency and are easy for the brain to become accustomed to. Fans and radio static are two common sources of white noise.
Features To Look For
Simple Controls – Choosing a machine that is designed with large, easy-to-use controls can save you the trouble of fumbling in the dark with finicky knobs or switches.
Built-in Nightlight – A sound machine that doubles as a nightlight can help you eliminate one other piece of nursery equipment.
Projector Feature – Some babies will enjoy looking at soothing images as they fall asleep.
Adjustable Volume – This one is really important. While you need a machine to be loud enough to do its job, a little one’s sense of hearing is still developing. Keeping noise at the right balance of effective and safe is essential.
Variety of Sound Choices – Some people prefer a model that only makes one type of noise, and there are several options that will do just that. You may find, however, that having multiple choices allows you to experiment and offers a few options if your baby doesn’t take well to the first one.
A Timer – If you want to use your sound machine only while your baby is falling asleep, this feature could take one thing off your mind by automatically shutting off at the pre-set time.
Multiple Power Options – If you plan to use your machine in various settings outside your baby’s room, a unit that offers battery, USB and AC power choices can be very convenient.
How to Use a Sound Machine
Your goal is to “cushion” the room with white or soothing noise. Sixty decibels should be adequate to provide an effective sound cover while still being firmly in the safe range.
You may need to try a few different settings to find the volume that your baby prefers and is loud enough to cover outside noise. Typically, you should aim for a noise level that is about equal to a normal conversational tone.
As another hearing safeguard, avoid setting up the sound machine too close to your baby’s ears. Select a place that is at least a few feet away from your child’s crib.
Turning the machine on while your child winds down for bed or their nap can also help ease the transition from playtime to sleep time.
Can the baby become dependent on using a machine?
The short answer is yes, it is possible that your baby could get to the point where they find it difficult to sleep without background noise.
Many parents feel the trade-off is worth it, however. Most sound machines are quite small and are powered by batteries or a standard electrical outlet, making them easy to transport.
It is also important to recognize that a current problem needs a timely solution. Caring for a baby requires a large amount of energy on the part of the caregiver, and you can only sacrifice so much sleep before you may begin to feel compromised as a parent.
Even if it is only a temporary solution, using a sound machine can make a big difference in the amount of rest you and your baby are able to get.
Can a sound machine cause any developmental delays?
Babies learn how to make a variety of sounds by hearing noises and then trying to imitate them. As long as you expose your baby to conversations, books, songs and other environmental sounds, using a sound machine while baby sleeps should not interfere with their development.
Can a sound machine damage a child’s hearing?
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, noise levels less than 90 decibels are considered to be safe for children.
Adjustable volume controls also let you select your own preferred sound level.
Our Choices – a Closer Look at the Best Sound Machines
Marpac Dohm Classic
The Dohm Classic from Marpac does one thing and does it well.
This machine offers a single sound option that very effectively drowns out unwanted noises. Similar to the noise a fan makes, the Dohm features the classic Marpac sound of moving air. This could be a great option for parents who are looking for true white noise but may be leery of a fan blowing in their baby’s face.
Instead of digitally produced noise, the Dohm has a powerful motor that can be set to high or low speed with the flip of a simple switch. The outer shell contains holes that regulate airflow, and twisting the shell to open more or fewer holes allows you to adjust the pitch level as well as the volume.
The Dohm is a powerhouse in a small size, measuring 5.8 inches across and just over three inches high. With its compact design, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot for the Dohm in any room you want to use it.
One concern with this model is its tendency to develop a whining or rattling sound over time. This problem seems to be caused by a build-up of dust around the fan mechanism in the motor compartment. Marpac does offer a one-year warranty on its products if you experience this issue.
Another option from Marpac, the Whish offers a much wider selection of noise settings than the Dohm. While the Dohm uses an actual fan to produce sound, all the sounds offered by the Whish are electronically generated.
All settings on the Whish are controlled by push buttons. Each sound, the up/down volume and the timer have their own buttons on the unit’s top, while the power button is located on the front.
With sixteen sound options, it’s likely you will be able to find at least one you and your baby like. Choose from eight white noises, four nature sounds and four music/meditation sounds. Set a natural tone to help your baby relax before bedtime, then easily switch to white noise overnight.
The Whish offers a great range of volumes, with the highest setting being a bit louder than some other machines offer. This could come in handy when you have friends over during your baby’s nap time or after bedtime.
A timer feature allows you to set the Whish to run for either six or eight hours. Unfortunately, if you want the Whish to turn off before six hours, you will need to manually turn it off.
Homedics MyBaby SoundSpa Lullaby
With push-button controls that allow you to choose sounds, set a timer, turn on the projector and adjust the volume, the Lullaby from MyBaby could be a good choice if you are looking for a unit that does more than just produce noise.
The Lullaby plays your choice of six different sounds. Gentle rainfall, ocean waves and heartbeat noises are the natural options. If your baby prefers to fall asleep to a lullaby song, you have the choice of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Rock-A-Bye Baby or the Cradle Song by Brahms.
If your baby is more visual, they may find the projection feature soothing. Three image collections contain three individual scenes each, for a total of nine images. The top of the unit easily lifts off and allows you to select one of the three collections by turning a dial. The Lullaby will then display each scene in a sequence.
The projector is located at the top of the unit and displays the directly images upward. If you want the image projected in a different angle, you may need to use some creativity to tilt the Lullaby. The projector will turn off after three hours.
The timer feature offers your choice of 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes. The unit will also run indefinitely if the timer is not enabled so you can still let it play all night if you want.
Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System
Whether you want a sound machine, soothing images or a nightlight for your baby’s room, the Nursery Projector and Sound System from Munchkin has you covered. Your choice of ten sounds and three projector disks give you a lot of options for customizing your settings.
Choose your favorite sound from one of four natural options or one of the six musical pieces. Natural sounds include heartbeat, ocean waves, rainfall and white noise. If your baby prefers music, you can choose from the lullaby options of Brahms’ Lullaby, Hush Little Baby or Rock-a-Bye Baby. If you would like to introduce a classical piece, you can choose a song by Mozart: Mozart Lullaby, Twinkle Twinkle and Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
The Nursery Projector has a pivoting feature to project rotating images of the sky, sea or rainforest above your baby’s crib or on the wall. The light from the projector provides a gentle glow and could double as a nightlight. You also have the option to turn on the actual night light feature that can function independently and provide a soft blue light.
One of the most unique features on the Nursery Projector and Sound System is the voice-activation capability. When this feature is engaged, the unit will automatically turn on to your chosen settings if your child cries or talks. This could prove to be a real help if you are trying to encourage self-soothing skills in your child.
Project Nursery Sound Machine with Nightlight
This cute little sound machine has the look of a toy and can fit right in with a young child’s room decor.
This Sound Soother and Nightlight has six sound choices and three brightness levels. Control buttons are located on the bear’s belly in the front of the unit. The buttons are covered with a silicone panel, and each control is identified by a raised symbol. You can set your preferred volume with up/down buttons, and you can select your sound, brightness and timer settings by scrolling through the options on each key.
The six sound settings include waves, white noise, heartbeat, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Brahms’ lullaby and Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The Soother will play all night or you can set the timer for the machine to turn off after 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes.
One of this machine’s best features is its dual power capability. You have the option of plugging the Project Nursery sound machine into a standard outlet or using four AAA batteries. This allows you to put the machine anywhere in your baby’s room regardless of where the power outlets are, and this feature can be really helpful if your little one tends to pull on cords. The battery option also lets you easily use the machine on the go.
Homedics SoundSpa White Noise Sound Machine
At just six inches across, two inches high and weighing eight ounces, this compact sound machine is easy to transport and could be a good choice if your baby will be using it at their babysitter’s or grandparent’s house. The option to plug the SoundSpa into the wall or use four AA batteries adds to the portability factor.
Don’t let the small size fool you, though. This machine produces noise that is soothing, but it is definitely loud enough to drown out unwanted sounds. Choose white noise or one of five nature options: Ocean, Rain, Summer Night, Brook and Thunder. Your baby can enjoy the sounds all night or just while they fall asleep with a 15, 30 or 60 minute time limit.
All the controls are located on the SoundSpa’s top surface and are very easy to use. Each sound has its own push button, as does the timer function. A dial controls the on/off and volume functions.
Lifespan on this model does seem to be on the shorter side. Another potential concern is the lack of a screw-secured battery panel, so you may want to make sure to place the SoundSpa well out of your baby’s reach.
Big Red Rooster BRRC129
The Big Red Rooster weighs 5.9 ounces and measures four inches across and stands less than three inches tall. Despite its truly tiny size, this machine produces a fantastic quality of sound and is very effective at blocking noise.
The Big Red Rooster plays a mixture of natural sounds and music. Both the heartbeat and the ocean choices feature high-quality, realistic sounds. White noise is another natural option. For music, choose lullaby, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Rock-a-Bye Baby. A timer gives you 15-, 30- and 60- minute options, or you can let the Big Red Rooster play continuously.
All settings are controlled by push buttons on the top of the unit. One small gripe is that these buttons make a bit of a clicking sound when pushed and may slightly disturb a sleeping baby.
Power the Big Red Rooster with either three AA batteries or plug the unit into the wall. The battery option combined with the machine’s small size makes the Big Red Rooster a great traveler. The battery plate closes with a finger tab and does not have a securing screw, so placing the unit up high is probably a good idea.
Baby Shusher Sleep Miracle Soother
The Baby Shusher stands out from the crowd with its rounded edges, unusual sound and its underlying philosophy.
The idea for this machine is based on the book, “Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp. In the book, Dr. Karp explains why babies can’t resist the shushing sound that parents so instinctively make. Since no parent can shush forever, the Baby Shusher aims to provide an electronic version of the human sound. This noise is the only sound option available, but the smooth audio loop has an undeniably calming tone.
The Baby Shusher differs from most other sound machines in the fact that it is meant to be used when your baby is upset and crying. Play the Shusher at a loud volume to act as a distraction, then turn the volume down as your baby’s crying diminishes and they drift off to sleep.
With the machine’s small size, battery power and rounded shape, taking the Baby Shusher along on your daily errands is convenient. You can easily pack the Shusher in the diaper bag or put it in the car seat or the stroller.
The Baby Shusher will play for your choice of 15 or 30 minutes. When it reaches that time limit, it will automatically turn off. The goal is to use the Shusher to help your baby calm down and fall asleep, but then allow them to learn to sleep in a more normal environment.
Buzbi Co. Soothing Sleep Owl
Not only is this owl from Buzbi Co. adorable, it also plays a good selection of sounds, has a calming star projector and can double as a stuffed toy.
Soothing Sleep Owl plays 10 gentle songs: American Patrol, Are You Sleeping, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Brahms Lullaby, Home Sweet Home, Hush Little Baby, London Bridge is Falling Down, Mary has a Little Lamb, Minuet and Oh My Darling. You can select an individual song or choose to play all the songs in a series. A heartbeat tone and a bird singing are two natural options.
Your baby can enjoy a relaxing light show with projected star images that softly change colors. However, the LED light source is very bright, so make sure to set up the owl in a place where the light will not shine directly in your baby’s eyes. The projection and sounds can be played together or independently.
Soothing Sleep Owl will play music or lights for 30 minutes before turning off automatically. If you want to have sound for a longer period, you will need to restart the machine manually.
Battery power and a hanging loop with Velcro closure make taking the Soothing Sleep Owl wherever you need to go a snap. You can easily attach the machine to your baby’s stroller or car seat to play sounds or lights on the move.
Four buttons on the owl’s front control lights, volume, sound selection and power. The electronic box is removable, allowing you to hand wash the plush fabric if it gets dirty.
Pure Enrichment Wave Baby Premium Soothing Sound Machine
This machine comes in the classic gender-neutral color mint green, and its simple, clean design adds a modern touch to any nursery.
The Wave Baby offers six natural sounds: fan, heartbeat, lullaby, ocean, rain and white noise. Each sound is surprisingly realistic and plays in a smooth loop with no jarring gaps or breaks. High-quality speakers produce clear sound and the precise dial lets you select an appropriate volume level. The Wave Baby will play continuously or can be set to turn off after 15, 30 or 60 minutes.
Located along the bottom of the front panel, the seven buttons and volume dial are easy to use. Each sound has its own button, and the power button also sets the timer using a scrolling option.
A convenient feature is the built-in USB charging port on the Wave Baby’s back, essentially turning the unit into a mini charging station for other devices. An included stand attaches to the back of the unit and can help keep cords out of the way.
Its small size and flat design makes the Wave Baby easy to pack and take along.
The truly remarkable five-year warranty Pure Enrichment offers on this product is an additional plus.
Adaptive Sound Technologies LectroFan
As its name implies, the LectroFan specializes in producing 10 digital fan noises as well as 10 degrees of low-pitch brown, medium-pitch pink and high-pitch white noise.
The LectroFan offers exceptional sound cover and the adjustable volume lets you set the ideal sound level. With continuous sound generation, you can play the high-quality sounds with no fear of jarring breaks or gaps between loops.
Simple control buttons found on the unit’s front let you easily select your settings. Scroll through either the fan or white noise options to pick your favorite, adjust the volume with an up/down button or set the 60-minute timer.
The LectroFan is small and readily portable. Measuring 4.4 inches across and 2.2 inches high, this unit fits in the palm of your hand and travels well. A zippered carrying case is also available as an additional purchase.
Dual power capability allows you to plug the LectroFan into a standard outlet or attach to any device with a USB port.
For pure white noise, the LectroFan offers superb digital sound with a wide array of noise settings, and this machine is fantastic at blocking unwanted noises. The option of USB or AC power and compact design means the LectroFan is made to travel. Easy-to-use buttons let you quickly set your baby’s favorite sound, volume level and timer.
For those looking for a multi-purpose machine, you simply can’t beat the number of features on the Munchkin Nursery Projector and Sound System. Simple controls let you set lights, sound and timer to your baby’s preferences and the voice-activation feature is truly innovative.